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  • Writer's picturePhil


Jesus, today, I want to see you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly.


You betray someone three times.

You feel terrible, but since they're now dead, all you have to deal with is your guilt. But if they are actually alive, what you have to deal with is them,

standing before you, demanding a reckoning.

Some scholars believe that the book of John originally ended with 20:30-31.

Peter may have preferred it if the gospel had ended with John 20:30-31.

If it had, his last two experiences with Jesus would have been in the safety of groups.

In John 20:19-23, he could have lost himself in the crowd

as the Risen Lord passed through walls and proclaimed, "Peace be with you."

In 20:24-29, he could have been a mere bystander as the Risen Lord dealt with the doubts of Thomas and chided him for them.

If the gospel had ended with 20:31,

Peter could have breathed a sigh of relief at dodging the bullet

of having to face the one he had betrayed and look him in the eye.

But the gospel of John, as it has been handed down to us,

continues with a series of interlocking scenes.

First, Jesus appears to seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias and serves them breakfast.

Then, after breakfast Jesus badgers Simon Peter with a thrice-repeated question, "Do you love me?"

He was unprepared for breakfast on the beach with the Risen Lord.

The spotlight in this scene is on Simon Peter and Jesus. Simon Peter is the one who instigates the fishing expedition. The others had no more sense of direction or purpose than he did, so they went along (Jn 21:3, 4).

The beloved disciple recognizes Jesus as the one who is standing on the beach giving them instructions. Simon Peter's response is telling. He doesn't want to be naked before the Lord. So he throws on some clothes and jumps into the sea. Wouldn't one action or the other have been enough to cover his nakedness?

There are odd gaps in the story, too.

It's not written like a modern-day novel. What is Simon Peter doing while he eats? Does he look down, ashamed to meet Jesus' eyes? Does he have any appetite at all? Does he stand by the fire to warm himself in his wet clothes?

When Jesus is finished grilling the fish and bread for breakfast,

it's time for him to grill Peter.

When Jesus questions Peter three times about his loyalty,

John gives us a rare detail about Peter's emotions.

"Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, 'Do you love me?'"

I suppose he felt two times were justified, but not three.

Of course, he didn't limit himself to denying Jesus twice.

One commentator calls this conversation "Peter's rehabilitation and commissioning." "Do you love me?" and, if so, "Feed my lambs"


JOHN CHAPTER 21: 15-25 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumour spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

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